A Lifetime of Takeout: How Much Does Takeout Food Cost Americans?

Written By Guest Post
Last updated December 1, 2020

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March 31, 2020

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Millions of Americans all over the country are posting up at home to practice social distancing. In turn, takeout food has become a new normal for meals, as restaurants are shutting down their dine-in operations. Even during uncertain times such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, health officials have green-lighted restaurants to continue takeout services.

Ordering in is a safe option when you’re tired of making sandwiches for lunch, or the kids are begging for pizza for dinner (again). Everyone knows making dinner at home is less expensive, but convenience needs to be factored in. Depending on your order du jour, takeout food can put a strain on your budget — which had us wondering how much money do Americans spend on takeout each year? With more families’ staying home and ordering out, we decided to find out.

We determined the most popular takeout food item, style of takeout, and the average annual cost of takeout in every state.

For this study, we aimed to find the average annual amount that people spend on takeout food in every U.S. state. To do so, we combined the percentage of household income that goes towards takeout each year with the average household income in every state. We then used this information to estimate how much someone could expect to spend on takeout over the course of a lifetime, based on location. 

Additionally, in order to relate to the “new normal” of American life, we looked at Google search data for the most popular types of takeout and takeout food items across the country over the last 30 days to determine each state’s preferences.

In order to estimate the average annual cost of takeout food for an American family, we started by looking at the percentage of household income that goes towards takeout in every state according to City-data.com. We paired that percentage with each state’s average household income according to the U.S. Census. Thus allowing us to calculate the amount spent on takeout per year.

To estimate the amount Americans spend on takeout food over the course of their lifetime, we utilized figures from the annual cost of takeout to calculate what people spend over a 10-year timeframe and a lifetime – 60 years.

After taking a look at the numbers, we found substantial differences in the cost of takeout food across the United States. We also found that there is a big difference in what types of takeout people are ordering — variety is, of course, the spice of life.


One thing is very clear — how much you’re willing to spend on takeout depends on your location. Convenience such as delivery is usually a little more expensive as you pay for a delivery fee which is factored into the percentage of income people spend on takeout food.  Some states are home to residents who spend as much as $1,500 on takeout each year! Washington D.C. spends more on takeout annually than any other state, although the other big spenders come in close after.

Seven of the states that spend the most on takeout food annually tend to spend more than $1,300.  New Jersey, Alaska, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia residents are all shelling out quite a bit for their favorite food on-the-go.

Some states are far more frugal when it comes to what they’ll spend on takeout food per year. New Mexico spends the least on takeout each year at $734. West Virginia is the only other state that spends less than $800 per year on takeout with residents spending $740 annually.

These annual costs add up, especially if you’re living in an area with a high cost of living.

If you live in D.C., you’re probably used to the high cost of ordering takeout food items. Over the course of a lifetime, residents of The District can spend almost $90,000. That’s almost $10,000 more than the state that came in 3rd place, Alaska. 

An interesting point to note is that in only three states, residents might spend less than $50,000 over the course of their lifetime. New Mexico is the least expensive state for takeout over the course of 60 years at $44,056. West Virginia comes in as the second least expensive state with a total of $44,429. Finally, Mississippi spends $48,316 over the course of a lifetime.

If you live in one of the states or regions where takeout is more expensive, there are still a number of different ways you can save on your favorite takeout dishes. Follow these tips to save money or get the most bang bang shrimp for your buck: 

  • Sign up for loyalty programs with your favorite restaurants. Many restaurants either offer an app or a loyalty program that allows you to find out about deals before others do. Loyalty programs also often give a free birthday meal away, which means you can treat yourself to your favorite takeout guilt-free. 
  • Look for coupons and deals. There are certain holidays like National Ice Cream Day and National Coffee Day that restaurants will participate in. For 50% off your favorite takeout item, it might be worth ordering. 
  • Opt for curbside pickup instead of delivery. Even though many delivery service apps like UberEats are waiving delivery fees, you can opt to pick up your takeout order instead of having it delivered. This is a quick and easy way to save a few extra dollars to be able to afford a second takeout trip if your budget allows that month. 
  • Track your spending. The golden rule of saving money is to track your spending. There are many different ways to track your spending from apps like Mint to full-on budget programs like Every Dollar. Find one that works for you so you can see how much that once-a-week pizza order is truly costing you. 

Fantastic food doesn’t have to break the bank. You can still be on a budget and eat like a king or queen. If you’re careful about your spending, you may end up with extra money to head to your favorite restaurant to support their business when the doors open back up for dine-in services. 


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